Originally published November 9, 2010 at 4:59 p.m., updated November 10, 2010 at 4:48 p.m.
SAN DIEGO A new report says local street gangs are partly to blame for an increase in teenage prostitution in San Diego County. Now county supervisors want to strengthen penalties for sexual exploitation.
Investigators say roughly one in three teenage girls is lured into prostitution nationally every year -- and that number is similar locally.
San Diego is ranked eighth on a national list of having a high level of child prostitution and pimping.
Police say many of the victims are working for local street gangs.
Jason King heads the San Diego Anti-Trafficking Task force.
He said one girl can make $500 to $1,000 per night for gang members. The Internet is also making it easier for gangs to pimp girls.
“Your only tie is a cell phone to this person that you're putting out (on the streets),” King said. “You're not carrying stolen property or narcotics. In trafficking, you can sell that person over and over.”
King and a handful of other law enforcement officials presented the supervisors a report on the latest trends.
Prostitution is now the second largest source of income for San Diego gangs -- dealing drugs is No. 1.
The supervisors voted to explore laws to strengthen penalties for human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. Law enforcement officials are also viewing the problem in a whole new way – treating prostitutes as victims instead of suspects.
“I think it's something that has been under the radar for a while,” King said. “People didn't realize it. We all look at prostitution as the oldest business in the world or a victimless crime. That's just not the case."
King says these girls are often coerced or forced to have sex.